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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 23

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And if they did, they wouldn't summon me, holier-than-thou chicken squirts. Stay out of trouble, Rachel, and this will all blow over. Two decades at the most.

Two decades! I thought, then said, "That's what I'm saying. They didn't summon you, they summoned me! They used your name, knowing J would be the one to show up! They paid someone to summon me into a six-pointed star. I barely got out because they thought I was bound to demon law, but that's not going to work a second time. They know I can invoke demon magic, and they're going to give me a lobotomy and take my ovaries as soon as they find the next chump who knows your name!"

Who summoned you? Al said suddenly, icy calm pouring from him, and I looked at Nick, my mouth shutting. Tell me who summoned you with my name. Tell me, itchy witch, and Til not only see that you learn how to jump the lines, but how to survive that runt of yours.

I closed my mind to Al and pulled my hand from the glass. The sudden disconnection jolted through me, and I started. Feeling haunted, I first looked at Ivy, then Pierce, then Jenks, who was white faced and spilling a sickly green dust. Last, I looked at Nick, standing behind that chair both angry and frightened. Jax was on his shoulder with his wings folded submissively. If Al knew Nick had summoned me, the demon would actively work to take him out - close the hole of information rather than trade our names back as we had agreed.

Ivy uncrossed her arms, glancing at Nick and then back to me. "What did he want?"

I held Nick's attention, shivering as the adrenaline washed out and the last twenty hours fell heavy on me. "Just Nick."

Water cascaded off me as I stood up in Ivy's tub, my knees throbbing from the moist heat. It was steamy in here, with the mirror fogged, and Matalina sifting yellow dust to keep her wings dry as she sat on the towel rack and knitted.
Ivy's fluffy black towel was soft against my red, scraped skin, and I awkwardly tried to get the stopper undone with my toes, finally giving up and reaching for it and feeling everything protest. I'd soaked long enough to wash between my toes once and my hair twice. I'd be in there still, but I was starving.

Nick's voice was faint through the walls. Matalina's lips pressed together as she listened to the conversation, but it was too indistinct for me. I wasn't ready to deal with him or Pierce, and I was hoping to make the dash to my room unnoticed.

Nick was our unwilling guest since he could summon me at will after dark, an intolerable situation to Ivy. Jenks wanted me to give Nick to Al on the principle that he was a douche bag. I doubted Ivy would say anything if I went along with it, but I wasn't going to give Nick to Al. I wouldn't be able to live with myself. Besides, my safety would last only until the coven found someone else who knew Al's summoning name. What I needed was my own name back.

I sighed as the towel found every scrape and abrasion, my eyes falling on the ugly canvas slip-on shoes beside the toilet. I couldn't help but wonder who had my kick-butt boots, my jeans, my underwear... my red leather coat sticky with strawberries. Gone.

From atop the towel rack, Matalina smiled. "Oh, Rachel, you look fine," she said, and I met her gaze, thinking that I must look ghastly if that's what she thought I was sighing about. The woman appeared to be eighteen, but she and Jenks had forty-some kids, and she was nearing the end of her life span. Or so Jenks said. She looked awfully chipper for someone supposedly on her deathbed. Jax being here might have something to do with it. And I was worrying about who had my underwear?

"I'm out of the tub," I said, listening to my pulse and feeling tired as she knitted from a ball of what was probably dyed spider silk. "Why don't you go visit with Jax?"

"Because I'm angry with him for running off half trained, with a thief," she said primly.

Her expression was fierce, and I wondered if it was the thief or the half-trained part that bothered her. Guilt hit me, and I gingerly rubbed the welts on my wrists. Matalina would never forgive herself if her eldest son left again before she could find it in her heart to talk to him.

I glanced at Matalina watching but not watching me as I sat on the edge of the tub and tried to dry my feet, reminded of my first few nights in the church. It was Matalina who had kept an eye on me the night Al had almost torn my throat out. A lot had happened since then, stuff that turned enemies to allies, and allies to enemies. But Matalina was unchanged, she and her family a point of normalcy in my chaotic life. I was glad she was looking so well.

"Go talk to Jax," I said softly, and the woman sighed so loudly I could hear it.

"I will," she said. "Life is too short to carry a grudge. Especially when it's with family you thought you'd never see again." She continued to knit, smiling. "He likes you, you know."

"Jax?" I said, surprised.

"Gordian Pierce!" she exclaimed, looking up. "You can see it in his eyes."

Funny. The only thing I ever see in his eyes is trouble. Taking the towel from my hair, I went to the mirror and wiped it, wincing. I'd never get through the tangles. Never. "Pierce is a teenage crush from when I was young and stupid, and thought impulsive, dangerous men were the catch of the day, not the death traps they are."

Matalina huffed. Pixies were terribly straightforward when it came to relationships. Jih, her eldest daughter, had courted and married in less than a summer - and seemed all the happier for it. "With Jenks, I just knew," she said, a fond smile erasing her fatigue lines. "You re making this harder than it should be." I gave her a wry look as I sprayed detangler in my hair, and she added, "Does Pierce make your heart beat faster? Did Marshal? Did Nick? Did Kisten, bless his undead soul? I mean, really?"

I didn't have to think about it, and I felt like a tramp. "Yes. They all do. Did, I mean."

The pixy woman frowned. "Then you are in trouble, Rachel."

Don't I know it.

Shifting my towel higher, I minced to the door, listening for a moment before cracking it. The cooler, dry air slipped in, and I gazed first longingly at the kitchen across from the back living room, then closer, to the open door to my room. From the back of the church, I could hear Pierce and Nick "discussing" things.

Knees hurting, I made the dash, Matalina zipping ahead of me to shoo her kids out of the way. Breath held, I closed the door without a sound and leaned back against it. "Thanks," I whispered to the matronly pixy. "But I'm okay. Really. Go talk to Jax." But she only flitted to the thick cement sill of the stained-glass window and settled herself as if to watch for danger.

My shoulders slumped and I glanced at Vivian's pin, now sitting on my dresser. I'd forgotten about the coven. It would be just my luck for Vivian to take a potshot at me. I was sure she was still here, "willing to take a calculated risk."

The box from my mom was sitting on my dresser, the bottles of perfume it had displaced carefully arranged on the top of my music box to make me wonder if Ivy had moved it. My mother had been sending me things for the last couple of months as she continued to find them. Last week it had been my entire collection of Nancy Drew. Ivy had taken them off my hands, presumably to give them to the brat pack at the hospital. The way I figured it, if I had gotten along without it the last five years, I really didn't need it. Everything was precious to my mom, though, and I wasn't too keen on seeing what oddity she thought I couldn't live without.

Ignoring the shoe-box-size package, I shuffled through my top drawer for a pair of socks and the black lacy underwear that I hadn't worn since Marshal and I had broken up. I'd spent yesterday in prison and wanted to feel pretty, damn it. Slipping them on, I wiggled out of the towel and dropped a camisole over my damp head. Jeans next, the tight pair I hadn't been able to wear comfortably since the solstice. I hadn't eaten in twenty-four hours, and they might fit. The zipper went up with satisfying ease, and I smiled. I wouldn't recommend prison food as a way to lose weight, but if it was gone, I wasn't going to complain.

Socks in hand, I sat on my bed and slowly exhaled. Getting them on was going to be a pain. Repainting my toenails was going to be even harder. Maybe Ivy would do it for me.

Matalina's wings hummed in warning. Adrenaline surged, but she was looking at my door, not out the window. "Rachel?" Ivy called. "I made you a sandwich. Are you decent?"

There is a God, and hes good to me. My stomach rumbled, and I was suddenly ten times hungrier. I couldn't hear Nick's voice anymore, but I hadn't heard anyone leave either. Still sitting on the bed with my socks, I shouted, "Come in!"

Ivy entered with her head down and balancing a plate with two sandwiches and a bowl of cheese crackers in her hands.

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